Coming into the regular season, both the Cowboys and Eagles were expected to be some of the best in the NFC. Through six games, though, it’s apparent that neither team is all that good. Both teams are 3-3, with the Eagles struggling on defense against everyone and the Cowboys refusing to start playing football until the third quarter.
For the Cowboys, things are nearly at rock bottom after losing to the winless Jets and extending their losing streak to three straight games. They got off to a hot start after whipping the Giants, ‘Skins, and Fins, but came crashing back down to Earth after facing two winning teams in the Saints and Packers. The Jets game was supposed to be their “get right” game, but it was once again marred by a slow start on offense and a defense that bends and then breaks.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have been harder to figure out. They narrowly beat Washington in the season opener after making Case Keenum look like the second coming of Joe Theismann, but they followed it up with a loss to the Falcons, which looks worse and worse with each passing week. Then they lost a home game to the Lions before upsetting Green Bay on the road. And after throttling the Luke Falk-led Jets, they themselves got throttled by the Vikings.
Now, these two strange teams meet on Sunday night. The winner takes the lead in the NFC East, while the loser will have to battle the narrative that their season is close to over. And Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has already guaranteed a victory over the Cowboys, giving everyone flashbacks to Kamu Grugier-Hill the last time these two teams faced off:
“I know the sky’s falling outside; it’s falling, and I get that. And the fans are reeling just a little bit,” Pederson said. “But we’re going down to Dallas and our guys are going to be ready to play and we’re going to win that football game, and when we do we’re in first place in the NFC East, we control our own destiny, we’re right where we need to be.”
Pederson has since backtracked on that comment, insisting that he never said the word “guarantee,” but like, c’mon man. It’s just more fuel to the fire of an already flammable rivalry, elevated in recent years by the Eagles finally winning their first Super Bowl ever and the ongoing debate over which quarterback was the better pick in 2016, Dak Prescott or Carson Wentz (because it certainly doesn’t seem to be Jared Goff right now).
To that end, both quarterbacks are having a good year even if their teams aren’t. Wentz is completing 61.2% of his passes for 1,458 yards with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions, while Prescott is completing 69.7% (!) of his passes for 1,883 yards and 11 touchdowns to six picks. Furthermore, Wentz’s 71.3 QBR ranks fifth in the league, while Dak’s 82.7 QBR leads the league. The quarterback position is not the problem for either of these teams.
Both have suffered from coaching failures this year, with many criticizing Garrett’s overly conservative approach while Pederson has gambled too often and hurt the team for it. Look no further than Philly’s fake field goal try last week:
More than that, though, Philly’s secondary has been getting absolutely torched by opposing offenses. Remember when I mentioned how good they made Keenum look? It wasn’t just that game. The Eagles are surrendering an average of 280.2 passing yards per game and only four other teams have given up more passing touchdowns than them.
It’s quite the opposite for Dallas, whose secondary went 13 straight quarters of football without allowing a touchdown pass. In true Cowboys fashion, that streak was broken up by a 92-yard touchdown pass, but nevertheless this is a secondary that’s been tough to crack, ranking 12th in passing and surrendering the fifth-fewest touchdown passes.
Instead, Dallas has struggled in stopping the run, particularly getting gashed by Aaron Jones two weeks ago. The Eagles, however, have struggled to run the ball consistently. Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have both looked good at times, but rarely in the same game, which is what Pederson prefers. Perhaps they’ll find their groove against this defense, since Wentz will be facing a tougher secondary.
It will also be an interesting test for the Cowboys’ offense, though not the players. It’s seemed like Dallas has been running the ball more the last three weeks as opposed to throwing, but against such a porous defensive backfield the Cowboys should have no problem asking Dak to throw all over them.
This game has all the makings of a thriller. Both teams are in desperate need of a win, there’s a bitter rivalry between the two, and these teams match up well with each other. Which team can come out victorious, and which one will have its fanbase looking towards the draft?